by Francesco Marciuliano, November 9, 2012 10:00 AM
First, I'd like to thank Powell's Books for having me as their guest blogger this week. It's been an absolute blast, made all the easier and more fun by the great people of this Portland institution.
Second, by being a guest blogger, it's allowed that little picture of my book to appear over and over again all week. Perhaps you can see it right now, embedded within this very page. Go on, wave hi to the orange cat on the cover. Go on. He won't wave back to you, though. Not because he's a photograph, but because he's busy posing. He's very professional that way. Still, he always appreciates the attention.
Now, writing these posts has given me a great opportunity to think, which writers always prefer to actually writing. That's because while writing demands that you see some words on the screen every six days or so, thinking can be accomplished by simply closing your eyes and saying, "Wow, look at me ride that kick-ass unicorn."
But, in truth, what I have been thinking all week is, Why do we do it? What compels writers, artists, actors, and musicians to dedicate so much of their energy — so much of their very existence — to pursuits that more often than not result in frustration, pessimism, self-doubt, and poor credit ratings? What can possibly be the upside to feeling down so often and sometimes so deeply? What's with the miserable, spectacularly disheartening tone of this very paragraph? Why don't I just pour salt in your wounds? Why don't I just stop typing right now, open up a big can of Morton whoop-ass, and pour it into the gaping chasm that is your soul as I sit back and watch you writhe in incalculable, interminable pain?
Because believe it or not, I'm hopefully going somewhere with this, and the result just may very well be encouraging. I can't say it definitely will be so because, well, I'm also crippled by diffidence. But the mere fact that someone as hobbled with apprehension and irresolution as myself could think for even just one sentence that this might all end on a happy note has got to be seen as somewhat encouraging, right? Right? Come on, people. Give me some positive feedback. I'm dying here.
Anyway, why do we do it? I've thought about this long and hard for several minutes and I've come up with the following three possible reasons, which together I believe ultimately support artists' career choices (just not in the crucial financial way that involves being able to purchase food minus such cooking directions as "stir in seasonings from flavor packet" or "can also be used to make a mock apple pie").
1. To Know You Exist
At the risk of sounding like Neo struggling with the Monarch Notes to Plato's "Allegory of the Cave," when you get right down to it, reality is but a shared illusion. We don't feel as if we truly exist unless someone, at some point, turns to us and says, "Hey, glad you could make it! Oh, and you just gotta try the dip. I don't know what Jenny put in it but it's just freakin' awesome! Maybe she added chickpeas. Hey, Jenny? Jenny! Did you put chickpeas in the dip? The dip! Did you put chickpeas in the dip?! You did? I knew it! Awesome, man. Just freakin' awesome."
Consequently, most artists only feel truly alive when someone takes note of their work, of their efforts, of their goals. Now many of you might be thinking, But I know plenty of artists who are loners. Who seem to actively shun social interaction. Who can't go five damn minutes in a group without making some whacked-out comment that alienates everyone, even after I went out of my way to vouch that he was cool and wouldn't bring the party down. But being unable to cope with people is not quite the same as not wanting to be recognized by people. What we can't say in public without causing people to dismiss us or stare at the table in awkward silence, quietly peeling the labels off their beer bottles and making us feel about as welcomed as a pandemic, we can say in our writings, our performance, our drawings, our self-produced EP.
Now, that might come across as rather ridiculous talk from a guy whose professional responsibilities include writing comic-strip dialogue and penning a book with the word "pee" prominently in the title. But my writing allows me to connect with people who I would in no other way get to meet or be able to utter hello to without freezing up or immediately apologizing. What I'm trying to say is that we all need to find our own way to achieve recognition. I don't mean at a pecuniary or even a professional level, but in a manner that lets us have our identity confirmed. You are an artist. Through your art you substantiate such to others. You go from an idea of who you are to being this creator that many will love, many will like, many will detest, and many will wonder what the hell you're doing at age 55 still buying all your clothes from a consignment shop in Williamsburg. But you've done it. You've joined the party. You've got your name tag, now enjoy the dip.
2. To Know You Are Free
As far as subtitles go, "To Know You Are Free" is about as down to earth and humble as "To Know We Duly Possess the Inevitable Facet Crucial to Soul and Sapience" or some other quote I'm certainly misstating and surely misinterpreting from Rousseau. But nonetheless, I'm going to stick with it. Why? Because who among us, even those not in the arts, have longed not to have to work for others? How many of us here today have wanted to say, "You know what? Screw this. And screw you, Mr. Big-And-Mighty Company President! Just who the hell do you think you are, Mr. I'm-All-That-And-Oh-So-Much-More CEO?! Not everyone was lucky — oh, I'm saying lucky — to have your economic and educational advantages! Some of us didn't graduate from the Ivy League. Some of us graduated from The School of Hard Knocks. Of course, 'graduated' may be putting too fine a point on it. Classes were chosen. Teachers were challenged. Security was alerted. Apparently knowledge is only for those who fill out an application form and are formally accepted by the institution. But that's perfectly fine. In fact, it made me the man I am today! After all, some people learn best in a structured environment from accredited professors, others on a slowly sinking oil derrick at knifepoint. Eventually, though, I made my way back home, taking odd jobs that mostly involved delivering unmarked packages, collecting 'dues,' and stuffing envelopes. But with each employment opportunity I learned something about myself. Sure, I left each position minus any la-de-da 'benefits package.' And sure, that means I now have nothing in savings, nothing in checking, and no income coming in with the exception of rebates from Crest and Best Buy points. But I'm a survivor. Or, at the very least, a breather. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr. Boss Man!"
Clearly we've all been there. We've all felt the desire to not have to report to people we don't particularly care for, fulfilling tasks that often fail to satisfy us. Your art is your key to accomplishing that goal. Sure, that may sound like a specious argument at best, especially given that most artists have to work for someone else because their craft cannot pay their bills, their college loans, or even their parents back. But just
by Francesco Marciuliano, November 8, 2012 10:00 AM
It's always heartening to hear that your book
would make a great holiday gift. One, because I love the holidays to an almost frightening degree. (I live in a small New York City apartment where outside on my deck are two large bins — one for my 8-foot artificial Christmas tree, the other for my Christmas ornaments.) And two, because the giving of books has always played such a joyful part in the holiday season.
In fact, one of the greatest Christmas gifts I ever received as a kid was in 1977 when I unwrapped a set of comic books — Peanuts Classics and Peanuts Treasury — which as you can see by the photo on the left, I still have (and reference) to this day. I know the exact year of the gift because of the inscription inside from my parents.
My only wish is that I had received these books when I was just a little younger so that the signature inside would have been from Santa instead. That way, today when friends would come by my apartment, I could open up the books and say, "Look whose autograph I got! Isn't that freaking amazing?!" Then my friends would give me that look that indicates they're trying to find the most delicate way possible to bring up the subject of psychiatric evaluation, all the while fearing I'm next going to show them a bell I believe is from Santa's reindeer harness that only I can hear (and which they can tell from my insistent clanging is clearly a cowbell).
But all this made me realize that while there are all manner of perfect books to give for the holidays of December, there is little in the way of ideal literature for the holiday just around the corner, Thanksgiving (with the possible exception of the transcript to A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, published if only to show that a dog and a bird could indeed make a serviceable holiday meal, so long as they had ready access to a popcorn machine). That's why I was completely elated to uncover the following letter from a teenager — documenting the very first Thanksgiving — that will either prove to be one of the most significant historical finds of the last 400 years or a forgery entirely on my part. So print it out, wrap it up, and give it to your favorite person with the exclamation "Happy Thanksgiving!" Then patiently wait for your Thanksgiving present, and when you realize one is not forthcoming, let out a long, exasperated sigh and say, "Way to show the holiday spirit."
A Teenager's Written Account of the Very First Thanksgiving, November 1621
The feasting has summarily been concluded and I have repaired to my room, far from relatives most fractious and grievances oft repeated to no avail except to sway Aunt Ecclesianne to dip once more into the sherry and regale even the most unseasoned family member with what a total arse they be.
I had stepped not one manfoot into the repast quarters during the time of preparation when I was immediately struck with comments most thunderous about my unkempt head fur and demeanor quite displeasing. Our family, being all well recovered in health and having all things in quantities good and plenty, had apparently done little to close their fowl holes for even one damnable moment. Rather, they took to the occasion of my verbal lashing yet again with great practice and flourish, once more rekindling my passion for a native onslaught, a great blaze, or some warbler of alarming size to finally rid me of these blood fellows.
While I was instructed vigorously on how I was slicing most unwell the almonds for the greens, my valueless sister arrived, short in wanting to assist in our cooking endeavors but long in bodily attributes canine. Rather, she took the moment to shine but on herself as was her want, introducing her new swain to relatives no doubt astounded that a woman of such unpalatable demeanor could land a man without ammunition or rock most sharp. For his part, the man I readily surmised to be no greater possessed of intellect than the nuts I angrily cleaved. Yet within but a moment, our feast had miraculously transformed into a celebration not of our great harvest but rather a fete in honor of two people who could not look less like that of God's image if their hands were cloven.
Soon the relations not so immediate arrived, complaining of foot traffic unending and sharing long tales whose points even the great native scouts could not manage to uncover. Grandfather himself directly embarked once more into his yarn of how the very idea for Martin Frobisher's expedition had been vilely stolen from him, only rather than a "Northwest Passage," Grandfather stated he would have explored for "tobacco mermaids" instead.
Meanwhile, several of the guests' arms groaned most heavily from the prepared meat they carried into our dwelling, notwithstanding my mother's pleas that she was well in capacity to prepare the feast. Said guests countered that people oft like a selection — especially more than one lone pie — and not everyone takes to the singular aridness of my mother's turkey. This put my mother in a humor most abominable, which my Aunt Benefice sought to allay by stating that this is why they really ought to have held the feast at her house instead.
I asked to be excused, fearing being confined with such persons would soon make me disembowel my feces and utter remarks untoward yet unerring, but even such a simple request was furiously denied. Alas, I was harshly instructed to set the manner of the table alone while all manguests sat before the large fireplace, preparing for an afternoon of watching whose pinecone would blaze in great, colorful glory.
After what seemed to this author an interminable era wherein I tried to make myself scarce whenever chance allowed — only to be utilized repeatedly as the beast of burden unassisted — the food was brought forth to the banquet surface. I had not one hand on a ladle of potatoes mashed when I was scolded for impertinence and told by my mother to proffer thanks. "For what?" came fast my reply, only to receive a slap wholly sharp on the posterior of my head. Knowing that I had no choice in the endeavor and seeing this as my only moment to speak most freely, I chose to educate my family most disagreeable on the atrocities they had brought upon not only the initial inhabitants of this land but on this very person.
"Oh Lord," I commenced with great solemnity, giving not a soupçon of what was to come, "We thank you for allowing us to defile your earth with contemptible persons who want only for themselves and care not for their fellow man or creature. We thank you for the ammunition with which to blow asunder more animal than Noah himself could board, even if he dismantled and stored them in containers non-perishing for later utilization. We thank you for the arrival of my sister and her manfriend, whose very countenances surely make His Lord question His own powers. We thank you for the wisdom of our parental folk, who sought to keep me from enjoying but a seventh a fortnight skiing with peers on Plymouth Inclines, rather imprisoning me here to toil at their unkind will while the most contemptible lot of individuals ever
by Francesco Marciuliano, November 7, 2012 10:02 AM
Some of the great things about getting my cat poetry book
published — after failing to get my cat coffee table book (pictured to the left
) published, my cat fitness book published, and my cat YA vampire book accepted by my printer — are all the perks that go with being an author. Like watching a family member's face when they excitedly unwrap his or her birthday present only to find a copy of your book, followed by their comment "But you already made me buy three of these. And at least those were signed to the right person." Or walking into a bookstore and inquiring after your work incognito, despite the fact that there is no way they'd ever know who the hell you were in the first place, meaning you just wasted six hours in the makeup chair and a whole year in Laplander dialect coaching.
But one perk I haven't experienced as an author is being asked to review another author's work. That's the sort of illustrious invitation that lets you know you've finally arrived and that you can count on squeezing at least one more paycheck out of this whole writing thing (not to mention at least one free book).
In the great hope that I am one day asked to do so, I decided to build my critical analysis portfolio by reviewing a few books on spec. I specifically chose business-management books to show that I possess a wide range of publishing knowledge outside of cats and because after reading a bunch of cat books, I realized many of them are actually quite remarkable, and I started to get real insecure real fast.
So let us begin with...
Just Because You Wish Thorn Bushes Tasted like Double-Chocolate-Swirl Ice Cream Doesn't Mean You Should Go Right Out and Lacerate Your Mouth in a Thicket: A Business Fable
From the bestselling author of If Wishes Were Candy We'd All Be Buried Under Six Tons of Zagnuts comes this instructive guide about going from a career dreamer to a professional doer. The book opens — as many a business tome does — with a parable, this time about a snowman that more than anything else wants to be a polar bear. With a Fender guitar. And a trophy wife. He wishes and wishes and wishes, but his dreams always come to naught. Then one day a penguin drives up in a golf cart and says in a comical French accent, "Stupid snowman. You can never be a polar bear. Your body structure is all wrong. Plus, bears have strict unions. Instead, you should concentrate on being the best snowman you can be!" The snowman mulls this over for a second and then replies, "You're right! I'm going to be the best snowman I can be!" Six months later he has controlling interest in U.S. Steel.
While the book includes much in the way of useful information, the reader is eventually left with more questions than answers. Why does the imagery of the parable in no way correspond to that of the book's title? How exactly does a snowman assume leadership of one of the world's largest business concerns? Why does the penguin suddenly reappear in the final chapter only to rail against the Scots and the Trilateral Commission? In the end, though, these are minor quibbles compared to the wisdom you are certain to gain about flightless waterfowl and the rich inner lives of inanimate objects.
Hunter S. Thompson on Leadership
Keeping in spirit with the late self-proclaimed "gonzo" journalist's decisive moves and distinctive style, this short, direct work will teach executives wholly unexpected approaches for results-oriented management. Less an actual book than a compilation of quotes he woke up to find he had written on the walls and roof of his house, it's sure to appeal to professionals who don't so much want to think outside the box as shoot at it with an unlicensed howitzer while under the influence of home-cooked mescaline (as clearly demonstrated in the author's photo). From the opening chapter, "Look What Those Ghost Raccoons Did to My Youth I'm Going to Poison the Water Commissioner," to the closing summary, "Oh Jesus I Can't Feel My Thoughts I Want a Quesadilla Why Won't the Key Start the Coat Rack," readers are sure to glean crucial insights into setting goals, establishing clear priorities, resolving personnel conflicts, and just how to start building a submarine in your basement only to get distracted and instead try to construct a language consisting entirely of vowels and crossbows. The book also contains what might be a recipe for beef stew, directions to some friend's party, and 122 pages about how to use dynamite in lieu of a fishing rod or swimming pool contractor.
The 247,000 Attributes of an Effective Business Leader
"Charisma." "Confidence." "Passion." "Selflessness." "Responsibility." "Vision." "Goals." "Initiative." "Analysis." "Instruction." "Teamwork." "Guidance." "Directness." "Loyalty." "Motivation." "Productivity." "Praising." "Discernment." The list goes on and on for more than 700 pages with nary an introduction, illustration, or summation. The author's insistence on breaking up each term by syllable, the dearth of any context save proper grammatical usage, and the inexplicable presence of such words as "heliotrope," "nursemaid," and "pulchritude" may lead one to assume the publisher simply slapped a new cover over an old copy of Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, but the tome is nonetheless an invaluable addition to any business professional's library. Be sure to check out the highly informative appendices, including "Geographical Names," "A Chronology of Major Historical Events," and "A Guide to Pronunciation Symbols."
You Can't Spell "Cannot" without "Can": Making the Impossible Unimpossiblish
If good management is the execution of a plan that meets or exceeds department goals, then clearly great management is the execution of a plan that defies all reasonable or even earthbound expectations. Or so say the authors of this book. And to prove their point, they randomly brought together a paleontologist, an ad executive, a Yankee Candle cashier, and a touring company of Godspell to lead a small South Pacific island to prosperity and international prominence. Six weeks later everyone was dead, save for a lone monkey with a note taped to his chest that read, "Our new leader." While most people would look at the swath of needless destruction, the innumerable candle-scented corpses, and a logbook that includes the passage "Every day the monkey doubles our productivity quotas" as sure signs of absolute management failure, the authors (whose previous publishing credits include the investment guide Just Keep Thinking Happy Thoughts and Maybe Your Stocks Will Bounce Back) focus only on the positive. The country never had time to go into debt. No one achieved success at the expense of another team member. Everyone worked together to construct a large kite in hopes of flying off the island (albeit only to float into an active volcano). By concentrating on what was accomplished and completely ignoring all that went horribly, horribly awry, the authors illustrate a defining principle of most business leaders — to maintain a strong "vision" for your department, it's perfectly acceptable to ignore all the blind spots along the way.
Oh, God, We're F****d: How Change Will Be the Death
by Francesco Marciuliano, November 6, 2012 10:30 AM
For years cat people have been portrayed as feeble-minded Ms. Havishams who make cozies for their sleeping pets and say things like, "My cat gives the best investment advice," or, "I hope there was an apostle named 'Muffins' because I just got a 13th tabby for my Last Supper tableau." Dog people, on the other hand, have always been portrayed as strong. Virile. Able to consume large slabs of meat while cat people struggle with the bag to their Halls cough drops because they feel a tickle in their throat.
But today I wish not only to highlight these stereotypes as blatant lies but also shine a light on how cats are the true paragons — and true mentors — of masculinity. For, you see, as a longtime cat person, I've spent several years analyzing cats in lieu of actual work. (Because when you state as your career objective "humor writer/syndicated cartoonist," you might as well write "falconer/pearl diver" on your resume). And in that time I realized just how much cats had to teach me, not only about myself but also about being a man. A real man who can still correctly identify the plotline to any Golden Girls episode before the close of the opening credits (especially if it's a Sophia one).
And so, with that in mind, I present to you "Man Up! And Other Masculine Tips by Cats," starting with...
People will often say that dogs remain very active well into old age while cats seem to be able to sleep upwards of 32 hours a day, thanks to some sort of temporal anomaly. But that's only because cats use up eight of their nine lives as kittens, pushing the boundaries of both their own endurance and their owners' forgiveness. Take my girlfriend's kitten Scruffles here, a cat my girlfriend will insist is actually named "Belle" but who didn't have the foresight to frantically yell out the name "SCRUFFLES!" that first day at the vet. Anyway, here is Scruffles doing what she does best, "living life"...
You see, to Scruffles, those are not merely a window screen and blinds that have had to be replaced six times, no longer at the landlord's expense. No, to Scruffles they are yet another obstacle she must overcome, another journey she must take, to rightfully claim her true masculinity.
True, dogs will occasionally claim a couch as their own or steal your possessions and store them in the climactic warehouse scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark they call under your bed. But dogs will immediately cede such claims for even a hint of your affection. But a cat, on the other hand, will hold on for dear life. That's because cats realize that there is nothing more masculine, more rugged, than defiantly, unrelentingly clinging to your convictions with all claws, no matter how much you may tear at the fabric of society or an Ikea Klippan couch. In short, to be a cat — really, to be a man — is to scream "NOOOOOOOOOO!" whenever pulled away from your heart's desires.
People tend to think that to be a man you must be a perpetual motion machine, constantly doing without a moment for reflection. That's why dogs, always moving, are so readily identified with masculinity. But a cat knows that real masculinity comes from not only action but also reaction, from thinking about the consequences of one's choices and deeds. Take our friend Scruffles here. She knows what she did. But she's not hiding from her actions. No. Not even a little bit — which, really, you'd think would be the decent thing to do...
Instead, she proudly takes responsibility for her efforts like a true man, calmly reassessing her accomplishments and wondering how to proceed or what else to demolish beyond all recognition. Of course, no one could ever really know what, in fact, Scruffles is thinking, but if one would have to guess it's probably something along the lines of "Nyaah!" Which leads us to our next point...
When a dog does something "bad," they immediately whimper, drag their tail between their legs, and practically beg for your forgiveness with a nonstop barrage of slobbering. But when a cat, say, inadvertently shatters your entire cherished collection of 1970s McDonaldland glasses, they disappear for a brief while to reflect on their actions in that crawl space behind the fridge they call their drawing room. Then that cat will return, climb on your lap, and gently nudge your nose with their forehead as if to say, "Maybe it was my fault for thinking I could clear that leap from the kitchen counter, knocking over not only all your glasses but also breaking your limited-edition Iron Giant figure and collapsing your entire shelving unit onto your obviously poorly welded coffee table. And maybe it was your fault for owning things no grown man should. But the important thing is we have each other, so try to remember that as you pick glass out of your feet for the next six months."
Dogs will lick and lick and lick you again, first, because they feel they must constantly remind you of their love for fear of being forgotten, and second, just in case that happened to be the day you fell into a vat of taco meat. But a cat knows that true affection is best displayed not through grand "look at me" gestures but rather in those quiet, unassuming moments. Like when a cat gently licks your nose out of the blue. Or when a cat softly rests their head on your neck, wrist, or other pulse point. Or when a cat wakes you up in the morning furiously batting your nose with both paws as if it were a piñata and any moment it could burst open with Jolly Ranchers and Chiclets. All of these actions are a cat's way of saying, "I love you... and really, no self-respecting, productive person should still be in bed past 4 a.m."
As Scruffles here highlights, it really couldn't hurt sometimes. I mean, here's a kitten who... who...
Did I mention what she did to the blinds?! And yet this cat still manages to garner a "Who's a little Scruff-Scruff?!?" from us every time she doesn't bite down so hard on your big toe you scream for death's sweet release in the middle of the night. Seriously, we're being played.
Some people may think that cats are an indifferent species. Some people may think cats are thoroughly incapable of being empathetic. Some people could not be more wrong. Because there is nothing more masculine than compassion, an
by Francesco Marciuliano, November 5, 2012 10:42 AM
First, I would like to give a big "Thank You!" to Powell's for inviting me to guest blog this week. I'm sure it will be a great deal of fun right up until about Friday, at which point everyone will realize what a frightful mistake this has been and expunge all records of my posts from Google. Then Yahoo. Then Ask Jeeves, should it still be 1999.
Second, as the author of I Could Pee on This and Other Poems by Cats, I promise I will indeed address topics of a most feline nature in the coming days. I would like to start off by responding to the one question authors get more than any other. No, not "Where do you get your ideas?" or "What inspires you?" or "How often does your credit card get declined?" Rather, the query "Just who the hell do you think you are, calling what you do 'work'?! Why should anyone anywhere think anything you do could even be considered a job?! As far as I'm concerned, they should bury your sorry—" at which point I usually interrupt the elementary-school newspaper interviewer and say they're hurting my feelings and I need to go sob now.
But it does bring up an interesting point — how exactly do writers spend their days? Well, writing, like any other profession, requires strict discipline and a highly maintained schedule. So in the interest of preventing my already-fragile mental state from getting more pummeling questions, allow me to share my own daily routine. Perhaps this small gesture will in some way shine a little light on what it means to write for a living and, therefore, experience long intervals without health insurance.
6:30 a.m. Wake up. Make coffee. Wake up again and realize that when I nodded off my chin plunged the French press six seconds after I poured the water, meaning I accidentally made myself Sanka. Reason at this point to simply forgo the coffee cup and stick a crazy straw in the French press carafe instead. As grainy liquid takes that final loop before reaching my lips, I just know this is not going to end well.
7:30 a.m. Having thrown up things I ate as a child, I now go to my home office, which in a New York City apartment means I simply turn 180 degrees in my swivel chair. Realize spinning around in a swivel chair is fun. Also realize that pretending to be a centrifuge after drinking two cups of hot, damp coffee grounds is exceptionally nauseating, and so stop after 20 minutes and swiftly plummet.
8:00 a.m. Wake up on floor and climb on to motionless chair near workspace. Arrange art supplies carefully, even though I'll be writing, not drawing, today. Busily commence avoiding writing by giving each of my pens a backstory and motive. My #5 pen is a particularly intriguing fellow, in that I imagine he's a billionaire pen by day but a crime-fighting pen by night. (At noon he tries on a variety of hats, regarding it as "me time.") Alas, being a pen, he just sits on top of my table and so can't enjoy or explore either lifestyle. Quickly doodle something with the #5 pen so he doesn't feel useless.
9:15 a.m. Commence work on new book. Suddenly switch gears and decide to write a sitcom about mismatched roommates, one a refined neat freak unaccustomed to squalor, the other an escaped Colobus monkey with a loaded handgun and steadily improving aim.
10:00 a.m. Return to new book. Immediately lose hour wondering if I could cultivate a houseplant that thrives under routine neglect and the occasional arc of cat piss.
10:30 a.m. Return to work on new book. Decide I'm going to set it in ancient Greece. We open as my playwright Aeshophocles's latest theatrical magnum opus, "And Then at the Last Minute the Gods Came in and Made Everything All Right Much to the Delight of the Chorus," wows the critics (including a young Frank Rich) but closes in two weeks after both failing to attract the coveted male teen audience (which, given the life span of your average Greek citizen back then, was around age four) and having to compete with Disney's newest original musical production, a remake of Medea done with ponies. Meanwhile, the god Zeus still manages to evade paternity suit after paternity suit by picking up women in the form of a swan, a Holstein bull, and, according to one plaintiff, a rather aggressive ring-tailed lemur named "Toby." And, most important of all, the Trojan War has begun, amid much media speculation that the rescue of Helen of Troy was merely a political front for the true cause of combat, olive oil.
11:00 a.m. Start to question my knowledge of ancient Greece. Decide instead to renew daily heated argument with unseen dog in next-door apartment. Used to be close friends until he suggested I bet my life's savings on University of Phoenix Online to sweep NCAA basketball tournament. Relationship now chilly at best.
12:00 p.m. Lunchtime! Discover nothing in fridge, cabinets, or between couch cushions. Briefly ponder just how long I would have to squirt a ketchup bottle into my mouth before I can say I ate a whole tomato.
12:30 p.m. Return to idea of book about ancient Greece. Decide instead to focus on when Odysseus had to choose between leaving his son Telemachus in the capable hands of his aged, trusted advisor Mentor or in the care of his no-account brother Uncle Slackass, who spent his days talking about putting together a prog-rock band and his nights inhaling the fumes at the oracle of the Delphi with his fellow students from air-refrigeration technical school, having "visions." In my version, Ody chooses Slackass and so returns from a harrowing 20-year journey to find his boy shotgunning ouzo and idly making notes for a film in which all of the major roles would be played by Star Wars action figures.
1:00 p.m. Realize I have yet to shower, don clothes, or get something to eat. Wonder if a wet nap can attend to all three needs concurrently.
1:30 p.m. Worry that when people tell me, "You would be great with kids," what they're really saying is, "You think like a kid." Then worry that when they're really saying, "You think like a kid," what they're REALLY saying is, "I'd give it about five minutes in your care before my kid was snatched by condors." Then wonder if condors could actually carry kids, because this might be a great way to lower the high price of family air travel.
2:00 p.m. Wonder if my #5 pen's backstory should include children or if, when it comes to relationships, he's more of a "love 'em and leave 'em" type. Conclude that, no, he's a good guy after all. Then use him to doodle a happy face to drive that point home.
2:30 p.m. Starving. Try to dispel thoughts of food by inventing new dance, "The Francesco." Very much like "The Twist" only you do it on a coffee table naked for 45 minutes to no music.
3:00 p.m. Return to doodling with #5 pen. Realize I have drawn several cats, many actually on the sheet of paper in front of me. Suddenly think that maybe instead of rewriting an epic Greek poem I should write my own epic poem — from the point of view of cats! Of course! A cat goes somewhere, does something. My God, the poem writes itself! (Especially since after an absence